Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

Impact of Stress on Depression and Anxiety in Dental Students and Professionals

Academic journal article International Public Health Journal

Impact of Stress on Depression and Anxiety in Dental Students and Professionals

Article excerpt

Introduction

Mental health and its impact on an individual's physical and psychological morbidity is important public health issue (1). Researchers have suggested a causal link between mental strains and an increased risk of morbidity (2), so early intervention is paramount. It has been well documented in the literature that dental students suffer from high levels of stress throughout their education (3). Associations between specific dental stressors and enhanced anxiety and depressive symptomology have also been demonstrated (4,5). A recent review by Alzahem (6) indicated that the major sources of stress faced by dental students were living accommodation factors, personal factors, educational environment factors, academic factors and clinical factors. It can be seen in the review that many of the major sources of stress for dental students can actually be relevant to most university students. Issues relating to these factors may be pertinent to most undergraduates and mental health issues faced by undergraduate students have also often been demonstrated in the literature (7,8). In past research though, psychological issues faced by dental students often lacked a representative comparison group (9).

It is a common conception among the general population that Dentists have one of the highest rates of suicide of any profession and a number of articles have been written about this apparent phenomenon with conflicting reports (10,11). Irrefutable though, are the high levels of stress faced by Dentists and this has been well documented for many years (12,13). How does the mental health of dental professionals compare to their university years though? A review of the literature found that studies comparing these cohorts were rare (14). A comparison of Dentists mental health with a cohort of dental students would help to determine if any theme of psychological dysfunction pertinent in University dissipates after graduation or if those in the dental industry are destined to be perpetually under strain.

The methodology of the proposed study allows for investigation into the correlation between mental health and personal factors and offers important contribution to mental health research. The use of novel self-report measures will allow the relationship between student stress and mental health to be explored. To the knowledge of the researchers, the proposed measures have yet to be employed in dental students or dental professionals and the correlations between these measures will help in understanding the relationship between stress and mental health in these cohorts.

This study aims to provide a meaningful reflection of the mental health of dental students by recruiting a sample of undergraduate students as a realistic baseline. It is postulated that the true levels of stress may in fact be altered when a general student population is included. Overall, the study will provide information regarding the mental health issues affecting dental students and dental professionals in Australia. If a relationship between student stress and psychological dysfunction is found, it will provide evidence that stress is detrimental to a student's health. Practically, it will provide a focus for policy- makers within the University environment to develop intervention and prevention programs tailored to the needs of specific students. This will allow for mental health issues faced by future students to be prevented before they lead to physical and psychological morbidity.

The present study will ask the following research questions; Are dental students more stressed, depressed and anxious than dental professionals and other undergraduate students? And are perceived student stressors and coping mechanisms associated with mental health?

To answer the research questions, specific aims have been developed for the study. The overall study aims are to compare the difference between dental students and professionals in psychological problems and to examine the association between stress, coping strategies and mental health in students and dental professionals in Australia. …

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